Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hey guys! People have been asking like crazy about what it's like for LGBT (or lesbian,

  • gay, bisexual, and transgender people) in Japan. But since neither Jun nor I are in

  • any way qualified to talk about it on our own we asked our Japanese viewers for their

  • opinions in an earlier video, and today I'm going to tell you what they said.

  • コメントしてくださった皆さん、本当にありがとうございました。 And just a quick disclaimer: we did our best

  • to translate the comments but there were some areas that we couldn't understand well, or

  • other areas where I wasn't able to make the translation sound graceful in English.

  • First of all, a number of people brought up the point that Japan has a history of homosexuality.

  • Japan's never had a religious basis for disliking homosexuality, and a lot of famous military

  • commanders and samurai are well-known for having had homosexual relationships. A few

  • people mentioned that there wasn't really an issue with homosexuality in Japan until

  • it opened up to the West. In Japan there's no religion that denies homosexuality

  • so it's not a sin. Homosexuality was never a sin or a vice--it was just something that

  • was always naturally there. So why should people have to say they're gay? I'm straight

  • but I've never made a declaration out of it. Until the Edo period there were gay samurai.

  • Sengoku era military commanders such as Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who are very

  • famous, swung their swords both ways. So for Japanese people gay love shouldn't be that

  • hard to accept. But I think that changed in the Meiji era when we started importing Western

  • ideology. How Japanese people view gay people nowadays

  • really depends on the person so you can't really say one way or the other. However,

  • Japanese people who know a lot of history are more tolerant of gay people than others

  • because in Japanese history there are a lot of gay people who accomplished important things.

  • Like Fujiwara no Yorinaga who established the imperial system, and military commanders

  • in the Sengoku period like Takeda Shingen, Oda Nobunaga, and Date Masamune.

  • We don't have a religious taboo or historical prejudice against being gay. We're a country

  • where famous daimyos wrote love letters to their pages, so... And genres like yaoi and

  • yuri are well-established now, too. It was customary for some samurai to have

  • gay lovers. Oda Nobunaga was well-known for that. It seems like 400 years ago he has a

  • relationship with a black male. The 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu liked good-looking boys more

  • than women. It seems like there used to be male gay people

  • in Japan and they were accepted before Western culture came into Japan. But after Western

  • culture came, they disappeared.

  • In general it seems like a lot of people said that gay people tend to hide themselves in

  • Japan. Knowledge about the differences between gay and transgender, and especially the varying

  • types of transgender seems to be pretty low. Konostack-san had the most highly upvoted

  • comment, and said: I'm gay.

  • The first thing I want to say is that in Japan I've received almost no violence or verbal

  • abuse. Most people tolerate, or at the very least are polite to gay people, so I think

  • anyone can live happily in Japan. But understanding of gay and transgender people

  • is still pretty low, and there's a fair amount of prejudice.

  • For example, TV producers lump the various sexual minorities together in a category called

  • "Onee" to drive up views, so you don't see Onee people who wear clothes, talk, or express

  • themselves emotionally in a way that's considered to be heterosexually male.

  • So if I come out as gay people will assume that I'm female on the inside, and they'll

  • assume I'm interested in cross-dressing or a sex change, like those entertainers who

  • speak like Onee. So gay people don't come out because if they do that storm of prejudice

  • pours down on them. But if you're just visiting, I believe there's

  • absolutely no problem and Japan is a safe country.

  • There are two traditional words for Onee-san in Japanese. The first means older sister,

  • but it can also refer to young, polite, feminine women, and the second refers to young (like

  • in their 20s) women, like the word "miss" and is something you would use to call over

  • a waitress, for example. And if you remove the "san" and write it as katakana, it becomes

  • Onee, which means gay men who talk effeminately but don't wear women's clothes or anything.

  • However, over the years the meaning has been distorted and now some people use it to refer

  • to all transgender and gay men. It's a somewhat controversial term, and while it seems okay

  • to say it about entertainers on TV, a lot of people would be upset if you used it to

  • refer to them in person.

  • People who look like men but on the inside are women are called Onee on TV. They're popular

  • entertainers. It seems like every TV program has an Onee. But in general society outside

  • of a special place called Shinjuku 2-chome, gay people hide themselves. After all, it's

  • not common to have gay friends in Japan. They might be there, but they're not "out" because

  • of the atmosphere in our society. When I imagine gay people in Western countries

  • they're sexy, macho guys. But I don't think there are very many gay people like that in

  • Japan. You have even less of a chance of seeing lesbians on TV. Of course I'm sure they're

  • there, but they're not "out" publicly. Onee people are popular at Shinjuku 2-Chome. So

  • I think gay people in Japan are completely different from gay people in Western countries.

  • Shinjuku 2-Chome is a district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, that's famous for being a gay neighborhood

  • with tons of gay bars and other businesses catering to the gay population. According

  • to Wikipedia in Shinjuku 2-Chome there are 291 gay bars, and 402 total businesses catering

  • to gay people, like host clubs, bath houses, massage parlors, video stores, etc.

  • Midori Komatsuzaki-san also mentioned it's not common to see lesbians on TV, and from

  • a lot of the comments we got it seems like lesbians are even more uncommon than gay people.

  • But, there were several people who said they have lesbian friends and co-workers who came out

  • and were accepted.

  • I have a female colleague who is a lesbian, and she's just a normal employee. She works

  • fine without any problems. My other colleagues and I planned a wedding ceremony for her.

  • In Japan young people don't really have a problem with gay people. Maybe it's thanks

  • to the media? By the way, in Japan we have onsen where you take a bath naked with others.

  • One of my straight friends has a hard time going to an onsen with my lesbian colleague

  • because she said it's like taking a bath with her male friends and it's embarrassing for her.

  • One of my friends is a lesbian, and when she told me about it I was really surprised but

  • I don't mind anymore. Even if someone is lesbian or gay, that doesn't mean they like EVERYONE

  • of that gender. I came to understand that she's not interested in dating me, and so

  • I don't mind. They also fall in love with people like us--it's just that they fall in

  • love with the same sex. Some people wouldn't understand that, though, and might break off

  • a friendship if their friend came out. Especially Christian people. And I think this doesn't

  • only happen in Japan.

  • And of course, some people in Japan view homosexuality the same way that some people in America view

  • it.

  • In general it seems like outside of TV most LGBT people tend to stay hidden, and because

  • of that a lot of people said they don't know anyone who's gay.

  • I think there are a lot of LGBT in Japan, but in the present condition they don't come

  • out. So like Jun, I don't personally know any gay people. When I studied abroad in America

  • and found out how many sexual minorities there are, after returning to Japan I realized that

  • they were certainly there, too, but because of today's state of affairs they hide themselves.

  • I don't know how it is for people from other countries, but I get the feeling that knowledge

  • of things like the differences between gay and transgender people in Japan is shallow.

  • It would be nice if they would teach us that in school...

  • I don't have any gay friends. I don't even have to think about it.

  • I just think there are fewer gay people in Japan than there are in America and other

  • Western countries. I think there are a lot of hidden gay people

  • in Japan. But I hear a lot of stories about gay people attacking other people, so I think

  • that's why they're not accepted. There may not be much prejudice about people

  • coming out or appearing as the opposite sex, though, because we're used to seeing them

  • on TV. But because we don't see them that often in real life, I think it's difficult

  • to know how to communicate with them.

  • Some people felt like coming out was mainly an issue with your workplace.

  • I'm a 40 year old straight, married man. I don't have gay friends or acquaintances,

  • nor do I know anyone at work who is gay. In my opinion, even if they were gay they wouldn't

  • tell people because in Japanese work culture it's very important how you're seen. Japanese

  • companies don't think it's a good idea to have a gay salesman. They might think it's

  • a little bad because customers might complain or it could be disadvantageous. Frankly speaking,

  • this is common sense in Japanese companies today. Including me, I don't think individuals

  • are prejudiced against gay people, but as a company or community gay people are abnormal

  • so that's how they're seen. I think this might be unique to Japan.

  • It's very normal to have foreign people around us in Japan now, but I think it'll still take

  • a little while to accept gay people the same way we accept foreigners.

  • But I think there were just as many people who said they knew someone at their work who

  • came out and didn't have problems. There was one comment I found really interesting, that

  • suggested a lot of gay men in Japan just end up ignoring their sexuality and living a typical

  • heterosexual life.

  • I don't have any gay acquaintances, so I'm just guessing... Compared to America, knowledge

  • about the LGBT category isn't very widespread. So because of that, I think there are some

  • Japanese people who are actually gay but don't realize it and feel a little odd about being

  • straight, but end up getting married to the opposite sex. And so, I heard that once Japanese

  • people get married and have kids, there are a lot of people who stop being a man and woman,

  • or lovers anymore, and then become housemates or best friends, and then become sexless.

  • There is statistical data that says Japanese people tend to be less interested in sex than

  • people in other countries. So in marriage, if you just want to be with a housemate or

  • a best friend, then it doesn't matter what sex they are. So I think people who are actually

  • gay don't really feel uncomfortable getting married to someone who's the opposite sex.

  • And as a result I think that makes gay Japanese people less noticeable. I don't think there's

  • discrimination against gay people in Japan.

  • And a number of people made points that in Japan it's not really common to loudly assert

  • yourself and demand equality:

  • I've had gay and lesbian friends, but I didn't think anything special about them, and my

  • other coworkers and friends didn't dislike them. But in Japan people who are overly self-assertive

  • are somewhat kept at a distance from normal people, so I think you should avoid saying

  • things loudly like, "I'm gay! I'm the same as everyone else!"

  • Japanese culture puts a lot of pressure on assimilating, so I imagine that even if you're

  • a little bit different it's difficult. As for foreigners, most people view them as completely

  • differently from Japanese people so I don't think people care if they're gay. Japan isn't

  • a country where you assert your rights. We're a society where without saying anything people

  • can guess your thoughts, or you can indirectly show your feelings through your expressions,

  • so if you demand rights then people consider you a nuisance. So if you say things like,

  • "I'm gay! I have the same rights as everyone else!" people might end up putting you at

  • a distance.

  • Fortunately there were a lot of people who felt like coming out isn't a huge deal among

  • young people anymore, and that the typical reaction is either being temporarily surprised,

  • or just saying, "Oh, really?

  • I don't think there are many young people who would view gay people negatively.

  • Twice before I've heard rumors about people around me being gay, but almost no one was

  • shocked or spoke badly about them. It must be very difficult and take courage to come

  • out for gay people, so I think a lot of people would respect that and welcome them warmly.

  • These days you see yaoi and yuri in manga all over the place so I think the younger

  • generation doesn't really mind.

  • When I hear that someone I don't know is gay I don't care--I would be like, "Oh, really?

  • Hmmm..." So in my opinion most Japanese people wouldn't mind, they would be like, "Just go

  • ahead, as long as you guys don't trouble anyone it will be fine." But if they do lovey-dovey